Vauxhall Astra 1.4i

Turbo SRi Nav

Vauxhall Astra, front action 2
Vauxhall Astra, front action
Vauxhall Astra, rear action
Vauxhall Astra, dashboard
Vauxhall Astra, head on
Vauxhall Astra, front, static
Vauxhall Astra 2015, nose
Vauxhall Astra, action
Vauxhall Astra 2015, interior
Vauxhall Astra, rear, static

IT'S a tricky problem trying to follow up the design of an attractive, successful car.

Designers owe it to loyal fans - and also their paymasters - to replicate many of styling cues of the outgoing model.

Yet there's a need to add extra impact and freshness.

One of the best recent examples is the introduction of the seventh generation Astra...yes, the model goes back to 1979.

The current version has a familiar face yet it's somehow sleeker, sharper and of-the-moment.

And despite being marginally more compact, it manages to eke out greater space for passengers and a similarly sized hatchback boot.

There are a huge array of engine options - five petrol ones and three diesels.

I went for what is anticipated to be among the best sellers, the all new 1.4-litre 148bhp turbo which occupies the middle-ground performance-wise and appeals to fleets and families alike who have a keen eye on economical running as well as keen purchase price.

As a home grown rival to the Ford Focus and VW Golf, it was important that the latest Astra picked up its game in the driving stakes without sacrificing any of its established qualities or value-for-money.

A 200kg weight loss was a good start and helped allow engineers to make it more responsive with a ride that encourages swift cornering without the penalty of roll or ‘float'.

A different suspension system was chosen which puts an emphasis on more dynamic road behaviour. Significantly, Vauxhall decided not to offer a separate sports suspension package on this Astra, believing the standard set-up would have sufficient all round appeal.

It certainly feels light on its feet and can complete direction changes without drama, a big improvement on the last couple of generations of Astra. Steering is noticeably sharper without being too overtly sporty.

The cabin is airy and roomy, and beats most of its main rivals when it comes to legroom. Switchgear and the materials used for the interior are on a par with competitors generally, but not quite up to Golf standards.

Boot space with four onboard remains at 370 litres but luggage must be lifted over a lip. By folding down the rear seats baggage space increases to a class leading 1,210 litres.

Seats front and rear are well shaped and comfortable over long trips. The infotainment system is better than most and is easy to adapt to and use.

With seven levels of trim to choose from, most owners will be able to find exactly what they want.

Even the basic version gets LED daytime running lights, cruise control and air con. In SRi Nav form there's also sports seats, upgraded alloy wheels, DAB radio, sat nav, front and rear head restraints, heated door mirrors and rain sensitive wipers.

The 1,399cc, 148bhp petrol turbo is plenty powerful enough to for the lightweight Astra with 62mph coming up in just under eight seconds. Plenty of torque means fast progress is made without resorting to high revs or stirring the slick six-speed gearbox too much.

On the economy front, most drivers will reach the mid to high 40s - the official combined figure is 51.4mpg.

FAST FACTS

Vauxhall Astra 1.4i Turbo SRi Nav

Price: £19,595

Mechanical:148bhp, 1,399cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 134mph

0-62mph: n/a

Combined MPG: 51.4

Insurance Group: 16

C02 emissions: 128g/km

Bik rating: 22%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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